Joel signalled his intentions for the 2018 FIA F3 World Cup by immediately proving on the pace on his return to Formula 3 racing in opening Thursday practice at Macau.
Having not raced in F3 since last year’s edition of the Macau Grand Prix 12 months ago, Joel belied his recent lack of experience of the category to go fifth fastest in the opening 40-minute session, winding up just a quarter of a second behind reigning European F3 champion Mick Schumacher who set the early pace.
Second quickest was Callum Ilott – the man who collided with Joel while battling for the lead in last year’s finale – as the 2018 GP3 regular also showcased strong form on his own F3 return.
Third and fourth respectively were the two Red Bull juniors Jüri Vips and Dan Ticktum, both team-mates to Joel at Motopark Academy as the Oschersleben-based squad enjoyed a strong start between the barriers.
Joel sat at the top of the timesheets for much of the early running, but slipped back after encountering traffic as the grip picked up in the closing stages.
Still, P5 marks a promising beginning to the event, which now carries on with opening qualifying later this afternoon.
In a rare Macau occurence, the session ran entirely without any red-flag stoppage.
Next session: Qualifying 1, 14.20 local time
QUOTE – JOEL
That’s a good start. I felt very much at home out there basically from lap one, which was nice confirmation that we’ve taken the right steps building up to this race to make sure I’d get back in the F3 groove as quickly as possible. There were no major dramas, the car feels like I remembered it, and I was able to put my experience of the track to good use without pushing too hard; it’s still early days. A solid start.”
Results – Free Practice 1